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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History [Format Kindle]

Elizabeth Kolbert
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Présentation de l'éditeur

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth.

Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species – including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino – some already gone, others at the point of vanishing.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy and Elizabeth Kolbert's book urgently compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Biographie de l'auteur

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1999. Prior to that she was a reporter for the New York Times. She received the American Association for the Advancement of Science's magazine writing award for the New Yorker series on which this book is based. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts with her husband and three sons.

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2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellente mise au point 2 avril 2014
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Le style et la succession des chapitres convient à qui veut se maintenir au courant des divers problèmes qui sont discutés : extinction des grands mammifère, acidification des océans, et état des discussions sur des questions qui relèvent du sujet mais cette fois du passé de la Terre.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  684 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Clarion Call for Ending the Current Mass Extinction 1 février 2014
Par John Kwok - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
As a former invertebrate paleobiologist, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" is the book I have been waiting for years to be written. It is a clarion call for ending the current mass extinction that we humans are causing, and a book that should be, according to Scientific American, "this era's galvanizing text", worthy of comparison with Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring". It is also a vastly superior popular science book than last year's "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction" written by IO9 science editor Annalee Newitz, simply because Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker, has done a superlative job in science reporting, accurately reporting and interpreting work done by some of the most notable researchers of our time studying mass extinctions, whether it is research from Berkeley vertebrate paleobiologist Anthony Barnosky (The lead author of a 2011 Nature paper estimating that current extinction rates are equivalent to those of the five great mass extinctions recognized from the fossil record; the terminal Ordovician, terminal Permian, terminal Triassic and the terminal Cretaceous; the latter in which non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.) or American Museum of Natural History curator of invertebrate paleontology Neil Landman, a noted researcher of Cretaceous ammonites, or evolutionary geneticist and anthropologist Svante Paabo, whose team is sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome and recognized the existence of another late Pleistocene hominid species, the Denisovans, from genomic material in a fragment of a finger bone found in a Siberian cave. What Kolbert has written is a spellbinding work of science journalism worthy of comparison with David Quammen's "The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions", and one that belongs on the bookshelves of anyone interested in science, and especially those who may not grasp the full extent of the ongoing mass extinction being caused by us, humanity. Moreover, at the end of her book, she provides an extensive bibliography which notes many of the most important relevant scientific papers as well as important texts written by the likes of notable ecologists James H. Brown and Michael Rosenzweig, and paleobiologists Michael Benton, Douglas Erwin and Richard Fortey. Without question, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History", may be one of the most discussed, most important, books of popular science published this year.

In her opening chapter, "The Sixth Extinction", in prose that is hauntingly beautiful and poignant, Kolbert cites the disappearance of Panamanian frogs and toads as one emblematic of the ongoing crisis in biodiversity, noting that of all the major groups of terrestrial vertebrates, amphibians are the ones which are most rapidly going extinct before our very eyes. She uses the discoveries of fossil mastodons and mammoths in North America and Europe in the 18th and early 19th Centuries in the second chapter ("The Mastodon's Molars") to introduce readers to the great French naturalist Georges Cuvier who was the first to recognize the existence of extinct species and the likelihood that they died during great cataclysms in Earth's history. Her third chapter, "The Original Penguin", is an especially lucid account of British geologist Charles Lyell's uniformitarian view of Earth's history, and how that inspired Charles Darwin's thinking, not only in geology, but especially, in his conception of the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection, while describing the rapid extinction of the Great Auk - which was the first bird to be dubbed a "penguin" - in the North Atlantic Ocean along the northernmost coast of North America and Iceland. In the fourth chapter, "The Luck of the Ammonites", she offers an especially lucid account of geologist Walter Alvarez's discovery of the iridium-rich clay at the end of the Cretaceous, leading to the development of the asteroid impact theory for the Cretaceous mass extinction, while also discussing work by such notable invertebrate paleontologists as David Jablonski, David Raup, Jack Sepkoski, and Neil Landman, in noting how the Cretaceous mass extinction that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, ammonites and other notable terrestrial and marine organisms, was simply a case of bad luck, which she emphasizes further in describing the probable causes for the terminal Ordovician and terminal Permian mass extinctions (Chapter V).

Kolbert devotes two chapters (Chapters VI and VII) to the ongoing "experiment" humanity is performing on the world's oceans, ocean acidification, caused by an excessive increase in carbon dioxide being dumped into them, and noting that it was a likely cause for several of the mass extinctions known from the fossil record. I must commend her for an excellent discussion of the species-area curve known for decades by ecologists, especially through the important research by E. O. Wilson and his colleague Robert MacArthur in the early 1960s (Chapter VIII), as a means of understanding habitat fragmentation (Chapter IX) as a major contributing factor in determining a species' prospects for survival. There are also excellent discussions on how human activity has fostered the unexpected dispersal of animals and plants, creating, in essence a "New Pangea" (Chapter X), that has only accelerated the tempo of the ongoing mass extinction, and the "Pleistocene Overkill" hypothesis (Chapter XI) proposed by geologist Paul S. Martin that has been confirmed, in spectacular fashion, by palynological (fossilized pollen and spores) data from Australia and North America. She describes the extinction of Neanderthals as another, much earlier, example of human-driven extinction (Chapter XII) relying on the notable research by Svante Paabo and his team, noting the importance of the "Out of Africa" theory in explaining Homo sapiens' global dispersal, while also discussing Paabo's "leaky-replacement" hypothesis that accounts for Neanderthals' eventual replacement by Homo sapiens through interbreeding, resulting in hybrids whose descendants include all non-African populations of humanity, contributing between 1 and 4 percent within the genomes of non-African populations, remnants of the Neanderthal genome. In the concluding chapter (Chapter XIII), Kolbert acknowledges she has been amassing evidence demonstrating why the current mass extinction exists, and warning us that "...we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy."
169 internautes sur 188 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Like Looking In A Mirror, But Failing To See The Image 10 février 2014
Par Frederick S. Goethel - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
From the title of this book, it would be easy to imagine that it was another science writer creating a book about climate change and attributing our future to that singular event. On the contrary, Elizabeth Kolbert has shown, through a number of examples, how we are destroying our environment and possible ourselves in the process.

Kolbert begins by going through the past five extinctions and explaining what is known of them and how they came about, as well as what organisms were present during each of them that eventually were wiped out. She then travels around the world to look at a number of ways in which we humans are causing the death and destruction of our current environment. That ranges from acidification of the oceans from excessive carbon dioxide levels to clear cutting of forests and to our unwitting transfer of invasive species around the globe on a regular and frequent basis.

This book is a wakeup call for all humans. In one way or another, we are all working to end the existence of numerous species and possibly our own. We may possibly be too smart for our own good. A quote from near the end of the book is certainly a message that is cause for us all to ponder! " If you want to think about why humans are so dangerous to other species, you can picture a poacher in Africa carrying an AK-47 or a logger in the Amazon gripping an ax, or, better still, you can picture yourself, holding a book on your lap."

Kolbert writes with the non-scientific individual in mind and makes even the most difficult subjects easy to understand. As I said above, we are looking in a mirror and failing to see the destruction we are creating. Kolbert makes us look at that image. This book is fascinating and thought provoking and very much well worth the price!
124 internautes sur 139 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 insightful exploration of human-driven extinction 2 février 2014
Par John C. Wiegard - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Elizabeth Kolbert's globe-trotting effort to probe the concept of Extinction covers all the angles. In the first half of her book she explains the complex process by which scientists such as Lyell and Cuvier pieced together an understanding that large extinction events have occurred several times in our planet's history. The most notable of these was the case of the Yucatan meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, an amazing episode of mass-extinction that has only been understood over the past thirty years. In the second half, she branches out into the anthrocene era, with the terrifying prospect of ocean acidification, alien species introductions, and the gradual isolation and disappearance of tropical plants. Kolbert's perspectives reveal that humans have driven extinctions not just today, and not just with the nineteenth century eradication of the Great Auk, but back to the end of the ice age with our hunting of the Mastodons and Giant Sloths. For Kolbert, it does not mean that humans are inherently vicious- but it does mean that our drive to change our environment to suit our needs is a dangerous drive- because it risks sawing off the branch on which we are perched.

Kolbert is studiously non-political in this effort, which may frustrate environmentalist readers seeking a red-meat endorsement of change in human society. But her thoughtful and wide ranging analysis is extremely informative on a topic that is not well understood by all. A careful reading will leave the reader disturbed and frightened, despite her matter-of-fact tone.
34 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Author does not allow scientific quality of her claims to be clouded with politicization 12 février 2014
Par Denis Vukosav - Publié sur
`The Sixth Extinction' written by Elizabeth Kolbert is an extremely interesting book that talks about the phenomenon of species extinction that we are all well-aware of from the study of history; the only difference being that in this case one who conducts the research is the same one that could be one of its subjects - the human species.

The author in her work used an expert way to merge scientific facts and forecasts for the human future that can be inferred from the natural current and historical indicators; the result is a thrilling book that is quick and easy to read, although its foreboding is sometimes a bit of ominous.

Kolbert decided to divide her book into two parts; in first part she discusses how humans came up with theories of species mass extinction while in second half she is more concerned with the human impact on nature and eco-systems, mostly global warming and increase of ocean acidification, that resulted with large changes and extinction in plant and animal species in the short time which in the lifetime of the planet can be considered a blink of an eye.

What made her book looking serious is the fact that at no time author does not allow scientific quality of her claims to be clouded with politicization - therefore, Kolbert's book is not a political pamphlet nor she had the desire to take reader subtly in one direction. Instead the author delivered a work of investigative journalism in its essence which as much as its topics and conclusions may seem complex, didn't even for a moment went into cheap platitudes.

The way author chose to end her book is also very interesting - Kolbert does not want to play the prophet ending her work with some apocalyptic conclusions of what will be of most interest to the readers: What about human destiny? She intuitively leads reader to this issue, but she does not attempt to answer it - it will be left to each individual after closing the last page of her excellent book.

The only thing that slightly spoils the impression of the book is the fact that it lacks a bit more graphic material which would have made it even more pleasant for viewing, and not just for reading - some colorful pictures and history timelines that would show historical periods on which the author discusses skillfully on her pages. However, this is only a very small flaw compared with all the positive, useful and instructive things you will find between its covers which make `The Sixth Extinction' highly recommended for reading.
25 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Disappointment 22 avril 2014
Par Grinnell Fisher - Publié sur
I had great expectations for this latest offering from journalist Elizabeth Kolbert since her prior book ("Field Notes from a Catastrophe") was outstanding. Sadly, I was disappointed. The presentation of material seemed overly formulaic, with an endless pattern of anecdote, discussion, anecdote, discussion.... The treatment of past extinction events and the history of human thought on extinction, while interesting, was not only muddled, but provided much more detail than was necessary to tie-in to the bigger, main point of the book (which is that humans are the ultimate cause of the current -- or sixth -- mass extinction). The final chapter, where I expected the big pay-off and tie-up of all the preceding material, seemed trite, weak, and anti-climactic, and merely attempted to offer a thin ray of hope and an apparent plea for humans to prevent the coming extinctions. Another major disappointment for anyone who has followed environmental issues (climate change, invasive species, habitat loss) for any length of time in the scientific and/or lay literature, is that there is little new information here. In addition, I gather from some other reviews that readers who lack scientific backgrounds may have trouble with some of the topics, which I see as another failing on the part of the author.

On the positive side of the ledger, those who are new to the topic may find much of interest. Certain stories, such as the ones about white-nose syndrome in bats and the loss of so many frog species, are so heart-breaking that they may inspire some readers to get involved with conservation efforts before it's too late (with the caveat that it is already too late for many species). To me, this is a 2-star book, but I've given it a "bonus star" because any book that takes this topic out of the realm of academia into the public spotlight can't hurt.
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